Mind the gap

30th April 2015

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Claire Hicks

Marek Bidwell outlines a process to plot the differences between the old and new version of the 14001 standard

More than 250,000 organisations worldwide will this year begin the process of transitioning from the 2004 to the 2015 version of ISO 14001. An effective gap analysis can help those organisations to make the necessary changes.

Voting on the final draft (FDIS) of the revised standard for environment management systems (EMS) is expected to take place in July and August, with the new version published in September. After this, there will be a transition period, and organisations will have up to three years to make the necessary changes. Certification bodies, however, are likely to integrate the first 14001: 2015 audit with an organisation's next planned three-year recertification audit.

A change is to come

Most practitioners will know that the headline changes between the 2004 and 2015 versions of 14001 include: more alignment between an organisation's strategic direction and its environmental policy and objectives; a requirement to address the significant environmental issues associated with the lifecycle of products and services - but not to carry out a full lifecycle assessment; and a requirement to determine and address the risks associated with threats and opportunities.

However, if practitioners are to be properly prepared for the changes, they need to fully understand the precise meaning of the new requirements and compare them with their organisation's current practices. This will identify any gaps, and enable them to develop an action plan to implement any changes. It is best not to tackle this primarily as a compliance exercise. Rather, consider how the new topics could add value to, and increase the resilience of, the organisation's activities, products and services. It advisable to read around topics related to the requirements in 14001: 2015 and research examples of best practice in areas such as employee engagement, ecodesign and "cradle-to-cradle", using this activity as a springboard for innovation in the EMS.

The article in the August 2014 issue of the environmentalist discussed a number of the key changes between the existing 14001: 2004 and the then draft of the new standard. All of the issues highlighted were carried forward into the FDIS, although there has been some watering down of the requirements for strategic planning and the quality descriptors for communicated information, as well as changes to the terminology for risks, threats and opportunities.

The attached panels list the clauses that contain key changes in the FDIS, pose questions that practitioners can ask to conduct a gap analysis, and give examples of the typical evidence that they might use to demonstrate (and go beyond) compliance. Also included is the example of a small firm that supplies and fits domestic insulation products to illustrate how an organisation might approach some of the new clauses.

Marek Bidwell is director of Bidwell Management Systems and author of Making the transition to ISO 14001: 2015.


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